One of my favorite college memories was a small group of friends that would gather for dinner at the end of each quarter at Youngstown State. We would meet up at the 20th Century Restaurant, with its art deco architecture, and usually several of us would end up sharing one of their legendary Spinning Bowl Salads. The 20th Century was located on Belmont Ave, at the “Belmont Point” where Belmont and Wirt Street merged.
The Spinning Bowl Salad was a trademark of the 20th Century Restaurant from its beginnings in 1941. The restaurant was opened by Harry and Faye Malkoff, who ran several other restaurants in the area including one of our favorites, the Golden Drumstick, located on the South side. Faye Malkoff was apparently a culinary genius. In Classic Restaurants of Youngstown, her son says that she based the recipe on one used at Lawry’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles, adding her own unique touches (p. 112). I’m inclined to believe this version of the history, although there is an alternate claiming it was picked up from the Blackhawk Steak House in Chicago. A Baltimore Sun article from May 10, 2000 makes this connection and provides a recipe that sounds like the salad I remember.
The big deal with the Spinning Bowl Salad was that it was made at your table, the bowl literally being spun as the salad was tossed and the special blue cheese-based and crumbled egg dressing was added. It was a show as well as a feast–we’d often share one, along with other entrees.
The restaurant had a diverse menu and it was all good–everything from steaks and spare ribs to deli sandwiches and pasta. Living on a college student budget a plate of spaghetti, a share of a Spinning Bowl and one of their famous chocolate creme pies or New York Cheesecakes would leave you pretty satisfied.
By the time I started going there to eat in the early ’70s, ownership had passed to Joseph and Morris Levy, along with brothers Marvin and Jacob Newman (Classic Restaurants, p. 112). I regret that I never visited during the heyday of the Malkoff’s ownership, but it sounds like the Levy’s kept the wait staff who had worked for the Malkoff’s along with a chef trained by Faye. I spoke to Morris Levy who gave me permission to use the picture in this article. I joked with him that as a sometimes boisterous college students he probably had to shush us. He said most likely he would have joined in with the fun. At any rate, we always found the 20th Century a great place for good food and celebration.
During this time, much of the business growth on the North side had moved north of Gypsy Lane into Liberty Township. The area of Belmont on which the restaurant was located began to decline and customers felt increasingly unsafe visiting the restaurant. Ultimately, it was closed in the late 1980’s and is no more.
Still, as restaurants go, a forty-five year plus run is pretty amazing when so many start ups last only a few years. It was a great place for first dates, anniversaries, celebrations, or a place for a good lunch if you worked downtown or on the North side. It combined a unique atmosphere with great, distinctive menu items. And for most of us, what we will remember most is those awesome Spinning Bowl Salads.
I hope you will add your memories of the 20th Century to this post.
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